DIB unveils plan for expansion of paid parking

The Downtown Improvement Board wants to increase parking revenue to pay for downtown beautification, lighting, signage and other enhancements. Currently, after the DIB pays for its new meters and enforcement, downtown parking breaks even at best with its paid parking spaces and surface lots scattered around downtown.

Last night at a workshop held at New World Landing, the DIB revealed its parking improvement plan that included a number of new revenue-generating ideas, such as extending paid parking and enforcement to Saturdays, extending weekday hours from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., adding paid parking on more side streets and offering monthly $25 parking spaces in surface lots.

DIB Chairman John Peacock told the nearly two dozen downtown business owners, employees and DIB members that the need for the changes is intuitive. Deborah Dunlap, a downtown resident and South Palafox property owner, wanted data on how quickly parking spaces on the street turned over.

“Will we have real numbers?” Dunlap asked. “Or are decisions being made based on wants and wishes? (Actual numbers) are our armor to make these decisions.”

Peacock said that the DIB didn’t need to do a study to have any supporting data, which it has done in the past.

“Ain’t no money,” Peacock said. “It’s just common sense. We don’t need to document it. Just look out the front doors. I don’t think we need to justify it with traffic counts.”

Peacock, whose residence and business are in the DIB district, said he was a fan of user fees and claimed property taxes and sales taxes just were not available to upgrade the DIB’s 8,829 total parking spaces, including 17 paid and free parking lots and garages.

“We have plenty of parking,” Peacock says. “It’s just not used the right way. We’re not doing all of this just for funds. But we got to get the ball rolling.”

Downtown business owner Wes Rosier expressed opposition to making Saturday paid parking.

“We do big promotions to get our customers to come down on Saturdays and Sundays,” Rosier said. “We’re trying to generate as much business as possible.”

Don Alan Work, owner of a downtown men’s clothing store, supported the extended paid parking hours.He said cars just sit in street parking all day or for long periods on weekends.

“When I opened in 2001, I could take a machine gun outside and not shoot anyone,” Alan says. “Saturday is very busy, as busy as any day of the week.”

DIB Director Ron Butlin and Peacock emphasized the new ideas were not attempting to be punitive, they were trying to modify behavior.

“Some of the surface lots are not inviting,” Butlin said. “There are a whole gamut of things we could do to make downtown feel more special.”

Before the DIB’s new parking plan is implemented, the Pensacola City Council must approve it, which Peacock said he hoped to have accomplished within the next six months.